Japanese fighter Masamichi Yabuki has been quietly creating a buzz in the lower weights thanks to his power. Win or lose Yabuki has always been someone worth following and has created a pretty solid following among those that follow the Japanese scene. What many perhaps aren't aware of is that Yabuki has a boxing brother, the talented and fast rising Masanori Rikiishi (5-1, 3), who is in the mix for a potential title fight in the near future. With that in mind we want to cover Rikiishi in this weeks "Introducing..." segment.
Interestingly Masamichi's birth name was Honma Sato whilst Rikiishi's was Masayoshi Sato, though of course both fighters are now better known by their current fighting names than their birth names.
Rikiishi was born in Suzuka city, Mie prefecture and prior to turning professional in 2017 he had managed to make a mark on the amateur scene, going 25-5 (15). His natural talent, and power, were obvious and when he turned professional he did so with a little of hype and expectancy on his shoulders, even without a hugely impressive record.
On debut Rikiishi took on Korean for Sa Ya Lee in a 6 round bout, and took a clear 6 round decision, whilst fighting out of the Yakushiji Gym. It wasn't a high profile debut, such as those enjoyed by someone like Naoya Inoue or Ryota Murata, but it was still an impressive debut against a live opponent over 6 rounds.
Rikiishi's second bout was also a 6 rounder against a live opponent coming to win, as he took on the then 4-1 Ryo Tanimoto, just 4 months after making his professional debut. Rikiishi would stop Tanimoto early in round 3, after scoring his second knockdown of the fight. This win saw Rikiiishi, who debuted under a B Class license, advance to becoming an A Class fighter and his ambition really was huge.
After his second bout Rikiishi left the Yakushiji gym and joined up with the Midori Gym, or the Green gym if you want to translate the term Midori. Sadly his first bout for the Midori gym showed too much ambition with the then 2-0 Rikiishi battling against former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka. Saka would prove too good, at the time, and stop Rikiishi in round 2. Rikiishi looked worried by Saka's aggression from the off, and despite having some success he was almost always fighting on the back foot and taking more than he was giving. Eventually Saka's power and aggression got to Rikiishi, dropping him twice and forcing the referee to save him.
Having lost in such 1-sided fashion to Saka it made sence to give Rikiishi an easy confidence building bout on his return. That easy bout, 4 months after his loss, saw him take out Indonesian journeyman Egy Rotzen in 2 rounds.
With the win over Rotzen being used to rebuild Rikiishi's confidence it wasn't long until he was back in a real fight, taking on former Japanese Lightweight title challenger Genki Maeda. In the opening round Rikiishi dropped Maeda, with a sweeping left hand and he'd score another knockdown in round 3, from a clubbing left hand. He would drop Maeda twice in round 5, with the referee waving the bout off after the second one.
Most recently Rikiishi took a wide 8 round decision win over Kei Iwahara, going 8 rounds for the first time. The bout was a dominant win for Rikiiishi, who dropped his man and left him with some huge swelling around the right eye, in an excellent showing.
Rikiishi will return to the ring on July 23rd, fighting as part of a stacked Dangan card at Korakuen Hall. He will be up against Shogo Yamaguchi and a win should push Rikiiishi one step closer to his first title fight.
The talented Rikiishi is a boxer first and a puncher second. Although he can fight in a war when dragged into it, he's at his best at mid range, can switch hit and has real venom in his left hand. He's not a KO puncher, by any means, but he's a guy where every clean shot seems to hurt, and that includes his under utilised jab. The biggest issue he has is that he still has a reckless edge. He's quick enough to get away with it, usually, but when he steps up to title level that will need taming, and will need sorting. Saying that however Rikiishi is a very fun, very exciting and very talented young Lightweight who can go a very long way.
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